Gone phishin' in Cincinnati
By ANDREW JONES
Scene Music Critic
Psychedelia arrived in Cincinnati on Friday night. Fans with long dread locks, beards and girls sprinkled with sparkles all over their faces cruised the lot scene outside of First Star Center. Nearly everyone was partying, having a great time in the unusual rainy but warm weather.
But everyone was excited because the world's greatest rock band was going to be strolling out on stage sometime after 7 p.m. Inside First Star, the buzz was even greater than outside. Most everyone squinted due to a huge cloud of smoke as they looked on toward the stage.
Finally, the house lights went out, an enormous cheer erupted and even more smoke rose. Phish was about to start grooving for the second show of their December tour. And groove they did. The four piece band from Vermont proved to be Vermont Phinest as they opened the show with guitarist Trey Anastasio's composition "First Tube." "First Tube" never fails to be an excellent show opener as bassist Mike Gordon picks a definitive bass line which lays a foundation for Anastasio's mellow but staccato introduction. "First Tube" became a showcase of Anastasio's array of guitar effects as he triggered delay loops that repeated over and over as he expanded his phrasing on top of these loops. As the song reached a climax, Anastasio's feet were stomping on effects pedals as fast as his lightning-fast fingers were producing the high-pitched tones that sounded somewhat like a car revving its engine.
The first set continued to be a good performance, which Phish typically delivers at any given show. Yet, the first set was not typical of Phish's trademark great shows. The set continued with crowd favorites such as Wolfman's "Brother," AC/DC "Bag" and everyone who is not a true Phish fan's favorite song, "Bouncing Around the Room." Known for their prodigious ability to improvise, this first set did little justice to their reputation. The jams of these songs were short lived and consisted of nothing special, but that certainly does not mean the band failed to convey a huge amount of energy.
The first set came to a close with "Slave To The Traffic Light, "definitely the gem of the opening set. This particular version of "Slave" contrasted their fist set performance as keyboardist Page McConnell took advantage of the song's A major key and melodically improvised during most of the song. After the band plunged into the minor section of the song, they began a crescendo ever so slowly. Minute by minute, all four members clicked together to create a melodious serenity that climaxed to fill the auditorium with cheers as loud Anastasio wailing high upon his guitar.
As Phish took the stage for their second set, fans tossed balloons up ontothe stage that read "`Play `It's Ice!'" but after conversing over the roar of the audience the band dove into "Last Tube," the complement to Anastasio's composition in the first set. "Last Tube" epitomized the psychedelic aspect of Phish as lighting director Chirs Kuroda displayed his love for "human wallpaper," sweeping over the crowd with purple and blue designs.
Phish lifted the crowd's spirits during the second set as they performed "Limb By Limb" from their most recent album, Story of the Ghost. "Limb By Limb" included another lengthy psychedelic jam that eventually evolved into a collage of sounds, nothing especially musical. Yet excitement ensued as the sounds segued back into the theme of "Limb by Limb." After performing "Limb by Limb" and "Last Tube" for about 45 minutes, the band continued with "Bug" and a high paced "Piper" during which percussionist Jon Fishman bashed his cymbals, the rest of the band smiling and laughing at the super fast tempo of the song.
To conclude the show, Phish played their fans' favorite song "Harry Hood." This version of "Hood" paralleled the exciting climax of the "Slave" in the first set Fishman, clad in his Henrietta dress, banged out the opening beats of Harry Hood, the band built to the song title in which all four members sang, "Harry!" and the crowd traditionally responded, "Hood!" After an awesome jam that included blinding lights to intensify the emotion, Anastasio lifted his custom hollow body guitar over his head and manipulated his position close to speakers to produce screeches of feedback.
Phish ended the night with an encore of the Velvet Underground's "Rock And Roll." Fans lifted their lighters in honor of the night's performance; the good ol' boys never disappoint. Their musicality places them above any band that performs today, and their technical genius grants them the honor of being the most respected rock musicians to last.
If only every band could be as great as Phish. They're not out to sell albums, produce hit singles or even sell mass amounts of tickets. They're on the stage because they love what they do: playing, making great music. A huge following of people realizes Phish is different, but it's not just the different aspect of Phish that creates an attraction. It's the greatness. Great music endures; certainly Phish will endure.
All Scene Stories for Tuesday, December 7, 1999